Aquarium-fish bill would put 2-year moratorium on fine-mesh nets
Anyone caught with a fine-mesh net along the shoreline or in the water where aquarium fish can be taken would be subject to a $5,000 fine under a two-year moratorium proposed in a Senate bill that advanced Wednesday.
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Anyone caught with a fine-mesh net along the shoreline or in the water where aquarium fish can be taken would be subject to a $5,000 fine
under a two-year moratorium proposed in
a Senate bill that
The bill is intended to align with a 2017 Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that made illegal the
use of fine-mesh nets for commercial collection
of aquarium fish until an environmental review is done. Such nets are the primary tools for the aquarium trade in the islands.
Senate Bill 931, which was rewritten and approved Wednesday by the Committee on Water and Land,
goes beyond the court
decision. It would create
the penalty, impose a
moratorium until June 30, 2021, and require the University of Hawaii to do an environmental impact study focusing on the trade’s
effects on Hawaii island
and Oahu. A cultural assessment would be part of the study.
The bill lists several moratorium exemptions, including the use of such nets for research purposes or traditional cultural practices.
It also appropriates $500,000 to pay for what is required by the legislation.
The original bill, citing Native Hawaiian cultural factors, would have banned the commercial collection of marine life for aquarium purposes.
Trade supporters at a
legislative hearing last week said lawmakers should hold off on taking action until the industry completes an environmental impact statement. One is underway.
Opponents have been
trying for years to shut down the trade, citing environmental, ethical and other
issues. SB 931 was the latest attempt to do so.
But trade proponents say the aquarium fishery is sustainable, well regulated and provides jobs.
Sen. Kai Kahele, the panel’s chairman, said he wanted an unbiased source to do an environmental study before the Legislature decides what to do. The study would be due before the 2020 session. “I really feel I don’t have enough information right now,” Kahele said.
Alika Peleholani Garcia, an aquarium collector, was pleased with the amended bill, including the formation of an advisory group to
assist UH with the study.
“We look forward to working with other groups to prove what we’ve been saying all along, that this industry is sustainable,” he said.
Inga Gibson, a spokeswoman for For the Fishes, a nonprofit group, said the public should not have to pay for a study that the industry must do to seek aquarium permits, especially given overwhelming support in polls and legislative testimony for a ban on the trade. “It’s outrageous to expect taxpayers to foot a half a million dollars for the benefit of the mainland aquarium pet trade,” Gibson said.